HOUSTON — The only hacking that was being done to the Houston Astros on Monday was by Seattle Mariners hitters.
On a day when Houston front office members met with the media pregame to discuss a story of leaked emails and texts to the website Deadspin, and accusations of computer hacking charges and privacy breaches were being thrown around, the Astros got to watch their pitchers leak plenty of pitches over the plate and the Mariners turned them into hits, homers and runs in an interminable 10-4 rout at Minute Maid Park.
With the victory, the Mariners improved to 45-38. It’s the first time they’ve been seven games over .500 since the 2009 season.
Of the four Mariners’ home runs, the most interesting was the last that put the game officially out of reach. Robinson Cano blasted his second homer in as many games, giving him six on the season. Cano’s lack of homers had been a concern for some people outside of the Mariners’ organization. Both he and Lloyd McClendon have maintained the homers will come. Perhaps this is the start of that burst of power for the team’s best hitter.
All the runs helped to massage Taijuan Walker through his first major-league start of 2014 and the fourth of his career. The Mariners’ prized pitching prospect was far from dominating. Walker’s command wasn’t pinpoint. But unlike pitchers who have occupied that spot in the rotation this season, Walker didn’t implode. Instead, it was a six-inning grind with runners reaching base every inning. But he got a little better as the game wore on.
In the first few innings, he fell behind early in the count and was forced to come in with fastballs for strikes. The Astros hitters were waiting.
In the first inning with a runner on first, Walker left a 2-0 fastball up in the zone to George Springer. The result will be replayed for many years to come as Springer crushed the 94 mph pitch toward left field. The ball just kept climbing at a rapid rate. It didn’t stop until it bounced off the glass windows well above and beyond the train tracks that sit some 80 feet above and 50 feet behind the left-field wall.
It was a mammoth home run. The Astros’ media-relations staff estimated the ball traveled 445 feet, but that’s only because its path was obstructed. It was still the longest home run ever hit to left field in Minute Maid Park.
Walker’s catcher helped erase the deficit. Mike Zunino answered with two-run homer of his own in the top of the second. The towering pop fly kept carrying and carrying before coming down just over the wall. It traveled about 100 less feet than Springer’s blast, but counted for the same number of runs. It was Zunino’s 12th homer of the season, tying him with Kyle Seager for the team lead.
Again, falling behind in the count came back to bite Walker. In the bottom of the second, he left a 2-0 fastball up to Marwin Gonzales, who yanked it down the right-field line off the foul pole. It gave the Astros a 3-2 lead.
Seattle took the lead for good in the fourth inning against Collin McHugh. Zunino reached on a dropped third strike in the dirt and Michael Saunders crushed a two-run homer — his fifth of the season — into the upper deck in right field to make it 4-3 Seattle. Two batters later, Brad Miller jumped on a hanging slider and pulled a low line drive over the wall in right field to make it 5-3.
Given a lead, Walker made it stand. He needed 94 pitches to get through six innings, giving up the three earned runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
Tom Wihelmsen pitched the final three innings of relief, giving up one run on one hit with two walks to pick up his first save of the season.